Plasma Cell Disorder

Plasma Cell Disorders Image

Originating from B lymphocytes, plasma cells divide to create clones of themselves. Each clone is able to produce a specific type of antibody, which in turn is used to fight against viruses, bacteria and various types of infection. The antibodies enable the immune system to fight many different types of microorganisms.

What’s a Plasma Cell?

Plasma cells are white blood cells produced from B lymphocytes. They create and release antibodies to fight infection. Plasma cells don’t normally circulate in the blood. They are found only in bone marrow, lymph nodes and areas where an immune response is taking place.

What’s an Antibody?

Antibodies, or immunoglobulins, are important agents in the body’s immune system. An antibody is capable of identifying antigens (foreign substances) such as bacteria and viruses. Once identified, antigens are treated as a threat, and the antibody tags the foreign body for removal by white blood cells.

An antibody is composed of four strings of amino acids called polypeptides. Two of these are “heavy” chains, and two are “light.” The four amino acid chains combine to form a Y-shaped antibody molecule.

Plasma cell disorders occur when one plasma cell clone divides and multiples uncontrollably. This type of clone is able to produce only one type of antibody (monoclonal antibody), also known as the M-protein. These abnormal plasma cells eventually begin to “crowd out” other plasma cells and antibodies. As a result, the body’s ability to fight viruses, bacteria and other infections decreases dramatically.

The abnormal plasma cells may eventually invade organs and tissues, causing damage in vital parts of the body.

Plasma cell disorders include:

  • amyloidosis: Amyloidosis occurs when antibodies or protein fragments accumulate in organs of the body. The buildup of antibody or protein fragments causes organ function to decline.
  • multiple myeloma: Abnormal plasma cells multiply uncontrollably and group together at multiple sites in the bone marrow, crowding out healthy blood cells.
  • Waldenstrom’s macroglobulinemia: Waldenstrom’s macroglobulinemia is a malignant blood cancer characterized by a high level of IgM antibodies in the blood and the bone marrow.

No cures have yet been found for these diseases, but treatments to relieve symptoms are available.